Covering the last couple of feet to the stage, Lucky hoisted himself up onto the platform, grabbing Taylor by the shoulders and hauling her close against his body. The sound of an air horn blast startled him, causing him to stumble. The momentum sent them tumbling to the ground. Lucky rolled, taking the brunt of the fall on his side while Taylor lay sprawled on top of him and gasping for air.

The noise in the room quieted down slightly, shouts of “stay on the floor” and “don’t move” weaving into the groans erupting from bodies unused to taking punches. The cavalry had come, probably summoned by the bartender and his handy-dandy panic button. Lucky wondered if they could scoot backstage and out of the building before anyone noticed. The last thing he wanted was Taylor hauled off to the police station.

“You okay?” He asked, mentally assessing his own injuries while running practiced hands over her form to check her out.

“I’m fine. But I think I broke a heel.”

“This isn’t funny.”

“Lighten up. I knew you’d take care of me,” Taylor said.

“If I’d been taking care of you I wouldn’t have let you talk me into this crazy plan. Now, let’s see if we can get you out of here before the cops notice. I think the path is clear to backstage.”

Shifting so he could help her off the floor, Lucky came face-to-face with a shoe. A government-issued, black polished shoe worn by most law enforcement officers. Tracing the line of the crease in the uniform pants, past the utility belt, gun holster, and shiny five-pointed badge, his journey ended with the face of a very pissed-off Sheriff Burke.

Oh, hell.

“Lucky Landon, why are you always on the floor groping this woman?”

“Would you believe we were looking for her contact lens?”

“Smart-ass.” The sheriff was not amused, and he emphasized his point by unhooking his handcuffs from his belt while they scrambled to their feet. “I’ve known you your whole life and I don’t know why I’m surprised to find you smack-dab in the middle of any trouble. You can explain it all to me down at the station.”

The click of the cold metal around his wrists told Lucky it was time to start talking himself out of this. He was good at it. They hadn’t nicknamed him “Lucky” for nothing.

“Sheriff, I don’t think this is necess—”

The Sheriff ignored him, turning to Taylor with a shake of his head. “Miss Elliott, I understand you have a lawyer in your family. If I were you, I’d use my one phone call to get him down to the station.”

Lucky groaned. It looked like his luck had finally run out.

Chapter Nine

“Lucky, if this is your idea of showing me the highlights of Elliott, your technique needs work.”

Taylor leaned against the bars of holding cell number two in the Elliott City Jail trying to get Lucky’s attention. He wasn’t far, his back against the common cell bars, and she could have easily reached out and touched him. But she’d been told many times never to stick her hand in the cage of a wild animal. Tonight, he qualified for that description.

They’d been incarcerated for a little over two hours, thankfully separated from the other patrons of the bar, who were housed down the hall. She could hear them, yelling and bitching about the supposed violations of their constitutional rights, and she thought she heard someone whining and crying about being too young to be arrested without his parents being notified.

Lucky had been eerily quiet since Sheriff Burke had slapped the handcuffs on him at the Jolly Gent, and no amount of coaxing on her part had dragged him out of his funk. The only time he’d spoken was to update the sheriff on everything he’d observed at the Jolly Gent—the bald guy, underage patrons, possible drug business in the back room, and improper documentation for his workers. The sheriff had paused at the last one, casting a glance her way before shaking his head, thanking Lucky for the information and leaving the room.

“Hey.” She leaned into him, so close her breath moved the few strands of hair curling out from under his ball cap. She plucked at the overlarge sweatshirt and sweatpants the sheriff had lent her to wear and racked her brain for something to say that would alleviate the oppressive tension in the room. “You always said you wanted to see me in baggy sweats.”